On the edge of Munich’s elegant Old Town, there lives an Englishman.
He came in August, doesn’t speak German and his room is now infested with footballs. Name on the booking: Harry Kane.
Few sights have been so common in sport this calendar year than that of Kane wheeling away in celebration, clad in white, after scoring yet another goal. First it was at Tottenham, then for England and later Bayern Munich.
Looking back, it looks scarily straightforward, but 2023 was anything but for the superstar striker and those close to him. As the year draws to a close, let’s look back at a remarkable 12 months for one of football’s most remarkable men.
January. Kane is still at Spurs and Spurs are still struggling to compete with the very best sides in the Premier League. Their year begins miserably with three defeats in four league games, although Kane’s first goal of 2023 helps them sneak past third-tier Portsmouth in the FA Cup to help ease the pain of being dumped out of the League Cup at the first hurdle two months earlier.
History was made in February when Kane’s goal to gave Tottenham a shock 1-0 victory at home to Manchester City made him the club’s all-time top scorer, surpassing the late Jimmy Greaves. The following month, Kane broke the same record with England, this time moving ahead of Wayne Rooney after netting a penalty in the Three Lions’ excellent 2-1 win over Italy.
Back at Spurs, boss Antonio Conte was on increasingly thin ice and the ground would crack in mid-March after weeks of public outbursts which showed all the signs of behind-the-scenes discontent. As Kane had become accustomed to, Tottenham crashed out of the FA Cup prematurely – this time to Championship promotion chasers Sheffield United – and his manager would be sacked after Tottenham collapsed to a 3-3 draw with bottom side Southampton which prompted an extraordinary post-match rant from Conte.
“Tottenham’s story is this,” the incensed Italian bemoaned in the St Mary’s media room. “20 years there is the owner and they never won something. Why? The fault is only for the club, or for every manager that stay here.”
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Things got so bad that even interim manager Cristian Stellini ended up getting the boot in April after Spurs lost 6-1 away at Newcastle. Later that month, Spurs managing director Fabio Paratici resigned after having his 30-month suspension from football, imposed by FIFA, upheld by an Italian sports court.
Tottenham were back in crisis and with his 30th birthday coming in late July, it was now or never for Kane to quit Spurs and start a new chapter while he was still in his prime – and while the North London club could recoup a decent fee, as there was just one year left on his lucrative contract. However, Manchester City had Erling Haaland, Chelsea were dropping like a stone and Real Madrid weren’t willing to shell out on Kane to replace club legend Karim Benzema.
Who did that leave, then, realistically? Manchester United and Bayern. Erik ten Hag’s United had just ended their six-year trophy drought and the biggest missing piece of the puzzle was up front, as Wout Weghorstevidently wasn’t capable of leading the line at Old Trafford.
Bayern were sorely missing a top-class striker, too, though. Boss Julian Nagelsmann had just been sacked in his second season after failing to recover from the loss of star striker and long-time talisman Robert Lewandowski.
Under new manager Thomas Tuchel, the German giants eventually scraped to their 11th successive Bundesliga title in the most dramatic circumstances on the final day. There would, however, be ruthless changes to the club’s hierarchy – revealed mere minutes after Bayern’s players lifted the trophy – which were made in the hope of getting the Bavarians back to the top of European football.
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That was United’s goal, too, but their failures on and off the pitch in recent years put them in a tricky financial predicament. While it was suggested over the summer that Old Trafford bigwigs were simply unwilling to enter negotiations with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, the actual reason has since emerged.
Despite Ten Hag earmarking Kane as his No.1 striker target, the Red Devils’ decision to spend an initial £60million on midfield general Casemiro the previous summer prevented them from making a concrete approach to Spurs. According to the Athletic, Kane’s wages would’ve been too high to work within UEFA’sfinancial fair play regulations.
With Casemiro’s sophomore decline clear to see, there are some who regret the decision to sign the Brazilian from Real Madrid, especially when that also led to them missing out on fellow midfielder Declan Rice to rivals Arsenal. United legend Paul Scholes told TNT Sports: “I think the recruitment at Manchester United this summer was the easiest it could’ve ever been.
“You think of the likes of Harry Kane, £100m probably, you get him. He’d have wanted to come here. The other one is Declan Rice. £100m.”
One club who didn’t have those issues and were ready to spend big were Bayern. They’d just watched Lewandowski tear up La Liga and win the title in his first campaign, while replacement forward Sadio Mane had caused problems off the pitch following a high-profile bust-up with Bayern team-mate Leroy Saneduring their Champions League exit to Manchester City.
Following the conclusion of the season in May, transfer chiefs at the Allianz Arena got working on a deal for Kane, who had to go on Tottenham’s pre-season tour of Asia, despite the increasing speculation and a meeting with Tuchel at his home in London. New Spurs manager Ange Postecoglou spoke candidly to the media about the situation and was braced for Kane’s potential exit, although a deadline was set which ramped up the tension in negotiations and led to a resolution.
If Kane started the 2023-24 Premier League season with Tottenham, he’d stay. Cue a change of tack from Bayern, who rapidly completed negotiations on the night of Thursday, August 11. Just over 24 hours later and days away from his fourth child being born back in London, the £82m deal was done and that Saturday the 30-year-old was able to make his debut for Bayern in their German Super Cup clash at home to RB Leipzig.
A trophy on his first day at the club was too good to be true, though, as Tuchel’s men fell to a humiliating 3-0 defeat after Kane came on as a second-half substitute. Bayern would also crash out of the DFB-Pokal to division three side Saarbrucken in November, ending their hopes of a treble. As for the Bundesliga and Champions League, however, it’s been a different story.
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Coincidentally drawn in the same Champions League group as United, Kane emphatically dispatched a penalty in their first clash – a 4-3 Bayern victory – and expertly set up Kingsley Coman’s winner in their return meeting at Old Trafford. Bayern comfortably topped the group while Ten Hag’s team finished bottom and crashed out of Europe altogether.
“Obviously over the summer I know there were some talks between a few clubs in the background, but Bayern was a team I was really interested by,” Kane coyly remarked ahead of the first fixture. “There weren’t many other discussions. My focus is on here. Obviously, Manchester United are a great club, a big club, but I decided to come here, and I’m happy I have.”
Meanwhile, the Bundesliga has been where we’ve most marvelled at the England captain’s achievements. Putting the question of whether or not he could do it outside of the Premier League firmly to bed, he’s made a record-breaking start which promises more milestones between now and May, as he improves his German with weekly lessons and collects more match balls for hat-tricks.
After scoring twice in Bayern’s 3-0 win at home to Stuttgart earlier this month, a result which only keeps them second in the table behind Xabi Alonso’s high-flying Bayer Leverkusen, Kane became the quickest player to bag 20 Bundesliga goals. He reached the landmark in 14 games, seven fewer matches than it took the the previous record holder, Uwe Seeler.